The premises are that no dog should be left on his / her own for prolonged periods of time. But we cannot deny that sometimes life gets in the way. It can be the arrival of a human child, or a new job opportunity or a change in household. Invariably when a choice has to be made between your dog’s needs and the greater needs of an unavoidable change, dogs are the ones that end up paying the consequences. So, let me tell you more about signs your dog has separation anxiety. And, given the very nature of this website, let’s talk more about Border Terriers and separation anxiety.
What Is Separation Anxiety
Dogs can and do suffer from separation anxiety. And this can indiscriminately to dogs you may have purchased from puppy age as much as to rescued dogs.
Separation anxiety affects humans, both at baby and toddler age. But it can affect us when we grow older, and we start feeling more lonely and vulnerable than when we were younger.
Do you remember the first time that you left your child with a relative, or with the kindergarten assistant when he was a baby? Or your daughter’s first day at school? Your child for the first few days may have cried when they saw you walk away. You would firmly have been advised not to turn back, but equally you would have walked back to the car with tears rolling down your cheek at the thought that your child was upset to see you go.
That is because there was uncertainty in your child as to what was going to happen next. Who was that stranger you left them with? and that strange environment you left them in? Where they going to see you ever again?
Likewise, as a responsible and more collected parent, you could not help, however, let your imagination run wild, to the point that you probably end up wondering whether your child was going to cry their lungs out for the whole time they were not with you, and that in fact relatives or nursery staff would ignore their cry and be nasty to your child.
Those uncertainties and fears are the same that your dog will fall prey to when (s)he is not used to being left on his / her own for longer periods of time – or for any time at all.
As a dog owner, likewise and in the same way as if you were a parent of human children, I am sure you too will start feeling apprehensive the first few times that you leave your dog on his / her own. You will wonder whether your dog will be anxious about it, and whether you are going to cause him or her any permanent psychological scar.
Signs Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Generally speaking, you will know that a dog is distressed and anxious by his or her disruptive behaviour.
This may result in constant barking or howling, or in damage to furniture in the house. But it can ultimately also result in potential build-up of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs or, even worse, humans.
You will wonder: how on earth am I ever going to find out if my dog does not like to be left on his or her own if I am out of the house?
I shall suggest later on a few simple measures you can take to help the situation.
However, the signs you want to look out for when you come back from leaving your dog on his or her own are the following:
- chewed furniture
- torn soft furnishing
- toileting in rooms or on soft furnishing, such as your bed or sofa
- barking incessantly (your neighbours, I am sure, will alert you to that)
- howling, growling and crying
- pacing nervously and not finding rest
- or hiding away
- being over clingy to you when you get home, following you wherever you may go in the house
- or, on the other end of the scale, your dog will display unusual resentment by manifesting aggression, towards other dogs or, worse, towards you and other humans.
That’s all very good, but how do Border Terriers fare in all this?
Border Terriers And Separation Anxiety
When we first got our Indy, our neighbours were early retirees and dog lovers themselves, and we felt comfortable, therefore, in asking them if they could keep an eye on Indy when he was in the garden, or if they could hear him barking or howling at all.
On this front, like in so many other aspects, we have been lucky, as Indy has never caused us problems when left on his own.
However, even with our virtually ‘perfect’ Mr Indy (well, you’ll forgive my biased stance, but he is perfect for us!), at first we found he was very restless and disruptive at night, as he simply did not like to sleep by himself downstairs. After a few days, my husband had to give in to my plea and to Indy’s naughtiness but allowing him in our bedroom at night, albeit sleeping in his own bed.
As far as I am concerned, Border Terriers are pretty much easy going dogs. You can google about Border Terrier personality, and you will find similar view points, all agreeing that Borders are one of the most lay back, yet active breed, ever so anxious to please.
This means that Borders do love to interact with their human family. Some dog owners believe that getting your first dog a second dog is an easy solution to providing additional companionship to each other dog. I cannot vouch for other breeds, but I am not sure this would work with Borders.
It is undeniable that two Borders – preferably of opposite sexes, not to create unnecessary competition – will, generally speaking, get along and learn to play actively. Yet they will still want to be part of the family and be with their family.
Like with any other breed, therefore, it is not recommendable that you leave your Border on his / her own for longer time spans than 4 hours at a time.
Likewise, given their energetic nature, it is always good habit to actively exercise your Border at the end of the day, should you have no choice but having to leave her or him on their own for prolonged periods of time due to work commitments.
And of course, it goes without saying – and I should know about it, given our early experience with Indy – Borders do not like to be kept away from their human family home. This means that, if the human family sleeps indoors, Borders should not be expected to be locked in the kennel outside. Nor downstairs, if the rest of the family sleeps upstairs.
I’d say the rule of the thumb with Borders is this.
Borders will embrace their ‘down time’ when left on their own. “That’s what Humans say I should do, and I will behave because I love my Humans”. But like with all good and healthy loving relationship, we humans need to strike that fine give-and-take balance.
So, when we are at home with our Borders, we should try to make the most of this precious time, by interacting with our Borders. We can play actively with them, or we can chat to them whilst going about the house doing chores. We can trifle with them in the garden, or simply give them cuddles whilst sitting on the sofa watching telly.
Your Border, no matter at what age, will always be pleased to see you back home!
#6 Tips To Avoid Separation Anxiety
Ideally you want to try not leaving your Border – or any other breed, for all that matters – on his or her own at all. Or you would want to leave them on their own for brief periods of time.
However, as mentioned, sometimes life gets in the way. Let me give you here are a couple of things that you can try putting in practice to make your dog’s time on his or her own less traumatic.
#1. Train your dog to be on his / her own gradually
If you need to be out for 2 hours at a time, do not leave your dog on their own for the whole of the 2 hours from start. You may want to start by leaving him or her on their own for 5 minutes, then 10, then 20 minutes – until the whole of the 2-hour period is covered. Initially you might just want to stand behind your front door, trying to hear for unusual sounds. And you will keep sticking to that length of time (whether that’s the first 5 or 10 minutes), until your dog stops barking or howling. Only then you will increase being out of the house to the next stretch of time ;
#2. Do not say goodbye
It sounds cruel, but unlike with us humans, it is advisable that you do not make a big fuss of saying goodbye. Dogs do not hold to pleasantries as a reassuring means. Especially if they tend to get stressed when left on their own, when we say goodbye to them, we alert them that they are going to be on their own and we therefore trigger anxiety in them. Just leave the room where your dog is, without saying anything or without doing anything out of the ordinary;
#3. Leave some background noise
Try to leave your telly or a radio switched on. It will let your dog believe there are people in the house. On a separate scenario, Indy loves the radio on when we drive in the car!!!
#4. Leave items of clothing that carry your scent
Without wanting to leave scarves or long and draping items of clothes or soft furnishing – you don’t want your dog to get tangled in the items you leave – try leaving about an old blanket that will carry both her or his smell and yours. This will reassure your dog and let them believe that you are still around;
#5. Use aromatherapy
Have you ever tried using aromatherapy oils and sprays to calm your dog? In handy dog-proof dispensers, they can make the environment more relaxing for your dog whilst you are away. But, again, you want to start getting your dog used to the scents whilst you are in the house, so that the smell is not novel to him or her whist you are away.
#6. Use a crate (with the gate open)
We never thought of using a crate for Indy when we first had to leave him on his own, nor did we use it for many years – we saw a crate a cruel thing for our Indy, as if we were imprisoning him in a cage. That’s not how dogs see crates – and I learned it with Indy when we finally got him a crate, which he started using when he injured his back in 2016. Dogs see their crate as their bedroom, a confined oasis of reassurance. Within a smaller space, dogs assume find refuge. We don’t necessarily agree with locking a dog in a crate – we still believe that a dog should be able to walk in and out of the crate, in case they are thirsty or if they need to go to the toilet. But sometimes leaving a crate with favourite blankets can be the ideal place for your dog to go into to have a snooze whilst waiting for your return.
It goes without saying: if you can get yourself a job working from home, that is the ideal for owning a dog.
But, provided you train a dog gradually to being on their own, there are measures you can take to ensure when on their own, your dog does not become anxious, but somewhat embraces those breaks from the humans to have deserved snoozes.
Go easy leaving toys or food for your dog when on their own, as they could choke on them when unsupervised.
Now, it would be lovely to hear from you and your experience of leaving your Border Terrier on his or her own. Does your Border suffer from separation anxiety? And how has (s)he overcome it? What are your Border’s favourite things (s)he likes to do when on her or his own? As ever, leave your comment below, and I shall reply as soon as possible 🙂
For more ideas on dog aromatherapy or relaxation, check out Amazon’s suggestions by clicking on the below picture: